A new study conducted by a research team from The John Innes Centre (JIC)
led by Dr. Xiaoqi Feng reveals that plants have a reprogramming mechanism
that allows them to maintain fitness down the generations. The team made the
discovery while studying germ cells in flowering plants. Germ cells,
specialized for sexual reproduction, are referred to as "immortal" because
they pass genetic material through the generations.
The JIC team worked with colleagues from the University of Leicester to
reveal for the first time the existence of DNA methylation changes in the
germline of flowering plants. They also revealed that this reprogramming
happens via a process known as de novo (anew) DNA methylation and its
biological significance in maintaining reproductive success.
Dr. Feng explained, "Our research shows that developmentally regulated DNA
methylation reprogramming can regulate plant development. Scientists have
been searching for this for a long time. We show that genes can be regulated
in specific cells via the de novo DNA methylation pathway, which is
prevalent in many plant tissues, hence this mechanism may apply to many
processes in plants."